Monday, March 22, 2010

Try to limit those CT scans

Laura Landro, WSJ, Mar 2, 2010, says CT scans can save your life if they spot a brain tumor, blood clot, or burst appendix.

But many ERs are now seeing that sending everyone off for one might be exposing people to unnecessary radiation. I had a weird spell one summer, got a CT scan of my head. The next summer—same thing. Different doctor, but he, too, said, Go to the ER. Another scan. If the first people have picked up that it was an inner ear problem (vestibular disorder), I would have been spared the second scan, but no.

Should I have refused the second one? Worth thinking about.

In millirems of radiation, a dental x-ray is 2. A chest x-ray is 10. A mammo is 70. A CT of your spine is 600. And a pelvis scan is 1000 (multiple exposures).

CT combines radiation and computers to give sharp sectional views. But in the year 2000 alone, 29,000 additional cancers may result from CT scans.

The FDA is urging less use of this and is going to try to make it safer.

If you need it, you need it—but always ask…”Is this totally necessary, do you think?”

You don’t want it just because the doctor wants to be able to come back and say, “She was scanned—we didn’t see anything.” In my case,if the doctor had read the first ER report (which I had obtained), maybe he would not have insisted the second time and given me that "OK, die if you want to" look.

It’s a tough call—none of this is free, monetarily or otherwise.

MRIs and sonograms can often substitute—but are also expensive. At least kick it around with your physician.

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